Extract from Chapter 9 of The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins
Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.
I strongly dislike Richard Dawkins. Not because of his close-,minded atheism but because of his assertion that teaching children about hell and damnation has the same impact on their lives as sexual abuse.
First of all, the man is a fool, devoting his life to ridiculing people’s beliefs, ridiculing something that he doesn’t even believe in; logically he is ridiculing non-existence, and therefore nothing. Dawkins cites his own experience of ‘sexual abuse’ as a ‘mild feeling-up’, lucky for him that he can describe his experience so lightly. But what Dawkins disregards with his naive comment is that such abuse is subjectively experienced, and many are not as fortunate as him. Dawkins agrees that sexual abuse is ‘horrible’, but this term seems rather feeble in describing the horrendous physical and emotional abuse entailed by sexual abuse and that ever pressing question: ‘why did it happen to me?’.
What ever ‘abuse’ Dawkins thinks that bringing up children catholic inflicts, at the end of the day, there’s always someone there to reassure them that it’s not real, it’s fictional. There’s a whole scientific movement against it: it’s called evolution. Surely the scale of this opposition is enough to convince one who has suffered ‘the long-term physical damage’ of Catholicism that what they fear, such as the depictions of death and purgatory, are fictional?
Unfortunately there is not a worldwide movement pleading the case that sexual abuse is fictional and that it can’t hurt you any more. Sexual abuse is in no way comparable to the telling of a scary story. It will always be real.